Positive Parenting

Your Kids Don’t Need “Perfect.” They Need “Persistent” and “Patient.”

In your standard-issue “How to Be a Mom” manual, you might find job requirements such as consistency and firmness. Those are all fine and good, but moms of children with ADHD know that more is required of us. Here are the Top 10 essential qualities our kids require every day.

A colorful illustration of the chaos and creativity of kids with ADHD.
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ADHD Builds Strengths

ADHD kids are special. They can be brilliant, curious, and stunningly creative; wonderfully kind and amazingly incisive, too. They can also be spacey, belligerent, and easily bored; altogether angry and hard-to-reach, too. And as we go through our days, with our child-so-creative or child-so-enraged, or usually both — together, at different times — our needs are very specific. We need certain qualities. Certain strengths that build up only after years of coping with the unique situations that ADHD throws at us. We don’t necessarily think about those qualities, but that doesn’t make them any less staggering — or essential on a day-to-day basis.

An ADHD mom at the sink is stressed while her kids run around the table.
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ADHD Mom Virtue #1: Patience

Patience is the ultimate virtue. It’s part and parcel of dealing with children. But an ADHD mom needs the patience of Buddha. Because when your kid can’t find his shoes again, and he’s left his folder at school again, and he’s taking forever to eat his breakfast because he’s not thinking about cereal, he’s thinking about Batman or sharks or Disney World or God knows what, you can’t lose it. It’s too early to lose it.

You have to take a deep breath (always with the deep breaths). You have to put on your calm-mama voice, no matter how much you want to smash windows. And you have to sweetly say things like, “Do you think your shoes might be under the couch?” or “Maybe you can eat a little faster, baby.” And you do this every single morning.

ADHD mom holding hand of little son with backpack outdoors, back to school
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ADHD Mom Virtue #2: Not Giving a ****

This scenario will happen to you. Your kid has forgotten his lunch/oboe/project. So you run in to school with said lunch/oboe/project, only to face all the side-eye from all the moms. You can hear what they’re saying, even if you actually can’t: “Why doesn’t she just let that kid grow up?” “He needs to face the consequences of his actions; how else will he learn?” “Is she going to bring him his essays when he leaves them in his dorm room?”

You will walk the gauntlet of know-it-all mommies, and know that your kid is not like their kids. He has a neurotypical difference, one that makes him seem spacey and forgetful. You know that bringing him forgotten stuff is not helicoptering; it’s accommodation. So you walk that gauntlet with head held high. And you smile, smile, smile.

[Free Download: Required Reading for Parents of Kids with ADHD]

A mom with ADHD lays with her child on a blanket in the park.
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ADHD Mom Virtue #3: Trust

It’s gut-wrenching to watch your child try and fail, try and fail, over and over again. Not to mention demoralizing. You might think, when will he ever get this stuff right? When will he ever learn to make friends, learn to remember things, learn to sit still, learn to stop interrupting? Will he ever live a normal life? That is when this virtue kicks in: You just have to trust.

Every day, in everything you do, you have to trust. Trust that his therapy is working. Trust that his medication is the right decision, if you decided to go with meds. Trust most of all that he will grow up to be a productive, contributing member of society, just like the equally smart neurotypical kids you see every day. You worry. Oh, you worry so much. But you trust anyway.

Mother helping his son in doing homework at home 4k
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ADHD Mom Virtue #4: Persistence

Every single day, you persevere. You do not run away to Vegas and become a blackjack dealer, though some nights you fantasize about it. Instead, you wake up early. You help your kid find the shoes he left, improbably, underneath the dining room table you never use. You help him go over his homework one last time and put it all in his bag, then you help him put his bag on his back. You literally put his lunch in his hand. And when he comes home raging because he’s tired and hungry and worn out, you don’t lose it. You put your hands on his shoulders and encourage him to breathe with you. You want to scream along with him. But you breathe, in and out, in and out. Then you take out the homework and begin the afternoon rituals. They will take hours. But still, you persevere.

An ADHD mom writes herself a message of encouragement.
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ADHD Mom Virtue #5: Courage

It’s scary to walk that gauntlet of moms and know you’re getting judged for your parenting. It’s frightening to go to the doctor and tell her that you think your son needs medication. Things that normal parents take for granted, like signing up for Little League, can be fraught for ADHD families. You’re terrified: Is he ready? Will he do okay? Visiting a restaurant can provoke the same feelings. But you do it anyway. You do all these things anyway, not because you aren’t frightened, but because your child’s need is greater than your fear.

You’re brave. You’re brave every single day, to move through the world with an misunderstood child. Though it may not feel that way, there are others out there who see it and who appreciate your courage.

An ADHD mom comforts her child with ADHD while dropping him off at school
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ADHD Mom Virtue #6: Understanding

Every day, you work hard to understand your kid. You want to scream; instead, you try to figure out why he did something. Why did he throw a tantrum at that moment? Was he hungry, thirsty, overwhelmed? Why did he steal from the class lost and found? Was there something he wanted that he had a hard time not helping himself to, or was it malicious? Why does he have such a hard time completing his homework on time? What’s distracting him? Your day is awash in a sea of his whys. You have devoted a parenthood to understanding this small creature, all day, every day. Because the rest of his life may depend on a strong, understanding advocate like you.

[How to Advocate Forcefully for Your Child]

A dad and mom with ADHD help their child with homework
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ADHD Mom Virtue #7: Creativity

You are the master of solutions. Tired of doing homework? Um … get up and run around the house three times! Can’t find your shoes? Here, every day we’ll leave them in the same place, you pick it. Can’t remember your backpack and lunch bag? Here’s a handy mnemonic we’ll say on the way out the door every single morning to make sure we have everything. Tantrum? Here, have a cracker. Don’t want to clean up? You’ve got six different solution for that, from dividing the room into quadrants to races to silly clean-up songs. You think on your feet all day. You’re always coming up with something new and different to solve a problem or hold your kid’s interest. You’re so creative, you’re like a walking Pinterest board.

An ADHD is prepared, and helps her child with ADHD pack his backpack with supplies.
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ADHD Mom Virtue #8: Preparedness

Your kid is seldom prepared, because, well, ADHD. So you have to be prepared for him. You have to have extra pens and pencils in case he forgets one. You have to carry snacks everywhere, all the time, because snacks can defuse a bad mood or derail a tantrum or just serve as a distraction. You may even carry a small bottle of meds in your purse, just in case they forget in the morning. You know where the extra pair of shoes is. You make sure you never run out of the one type of cereal they’ll eat. You have stickers. You have a new game on your phone. You have baby wipes long after you have babies. This isn’t because you’re some kind of super-organized mom. This is because you’re an ADHD mom, and you’ve got to be prepared if you’re going to survive.

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ADHD Mom Virtue #9: Mamabear-ness

You may be meek. You may be mild. But when it comes to your child, you’re mama bear. You can barrel into an IEP meeting, glare down everyone there, and get your kid what he needs to succeed. You can stare down the moms who decide their kids can’t play with your pinecone-thrower. “I told you he has a neurological difference,” you say loudly, and they duck their heads with shame. You can slam into school and demand that they deal with the bullies tormenting your kid, and you can stay there, bothering them, until you get a clear action plan and an assurance it will be followed through. You will fight for your baby until he can fight for himself, no matter how long that takes.

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ADHD Mom Virtue #10: Love

And you couldn’t do any of this, wouldn’t do any of this, if it weren’t for the throat-clenching, gut-wrenching, heart-stretching love you feel every single minute for your child. You would fly to the moon and back for him. Some days, when you collapse into bed, it feels as if you have. Some days, he reduces you to tears of frustration. Some days, he leaves you breathless with awe. But while you might like him less on the former days, you always, always, always love him. It’s what gives you the patience to breathe through a tantrum. It gives you the persistence to get through homework, the courage to walk the mom gauntlet. Love gives you everything. You love, love, love your baby. You’d do anything and everything for him. And most days, it seems, you do.

[“Dear Mom of a Newly Diagnosed Kid with ADHD”]

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  1. So did I, Arielle. Then I decided to read it as a reminder. If you’re anything like me, I bet you get the love and understanding parts better than most. We’re good moms of amazing kids. Even when we’re overwhelmed (which is often the greater part of most days…)

  2. I hear you both, and like bremom, I took this more as a reminder. Frankly, I was just really happy to see how much someone got what it really takes…. I am nowhere near, this but I find these to be aspirations I need to keep going. Thank you both for your comments. We ARE amazing moms in our imperfect try-again (and again and again) ways.

  3. I hear all 3 of you. arielle – right there with ya, honey. And thanks for the reminder mia – We ARE amazing moms. We are also humans with good days and bad. Yesterday was a not so great day in our house, and I needed this article today. A reminder of what it takes to get up, dust yourself off & try and try and try again.

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